With Mount Maunganui's Kehu Butler already confirmed for the World Surf League (WSL) Corona Piha Pro - there could be more Bay of Plenty surfers set to join him.
Earlier this month Butler gained one of two men's New Zealand wild card spots for the Corona Piha Pro, which is being held at Piha Beach from March 16-22, along with Piha's Elliot Paerata-Reid.
Since then, a field of the country's top surfers have this week been confirmed to trial for two men's and women's spots up for grabs for the WSL competition.
Among those named to trial include the top three Kiwis on the New Zealand Surf Series (2019 rankings) such as Pāpāmoa-based Levi Stewart, Ōhope's Jack Lee and Mount Maunganui's Callum Chute trialling for a spot in the men's competition. The trialists also feature top three Kiwi women on the WQS (2019 rankings) – Mount Maunganui's Raiha Ensor and Tiana–Breeze de Mooij, New Zealand Grom Series Under 18 Champion (2019 rankings), Mount Maunganui's Georgia Wederell and wildcard surfer Elin Tawharu, also from Mount Maunganui.
Taranaki surfer Daniel Farr goes into the trials as the top seed being the highest-ranked Kiwi trialist on the World Qualifying Series.
Stewart says he will be up against some strong competition but he has been training and surfing a lot and is feeling confident in his ability to secure one of the spots up for grabs.
"It'll definitely be tough," Stewart says.
The trials will take place on March 15, in the lead-up to the Piha Pro, and will see the top two males and females being granted wildcards into the main competition. The wildcards will join Paige Hareb, Ella Williams, Ricardo Christie and Billy Stairmand as Kiwis confirmed for the main rounds.
The Piha Pro will bring a field of more than 100 of the world's best surfers to New Zealand, all looking for precious rankings points and a chance to qualify for the 2021 Championship Tour. Eleven-Time World Surfing Champion Kelly Slater will compete at the Piha Pro - his first time competing in New Zealand since 1993 - giving many of the Kiwi surfers the opportunity to surf alongside a hero and legend in the sport.
Stewart says gaining a place will be a massive boost to his career.
"That's a lot of points to my international campaign. It'll be huge, just to be in the event it's a lot of points."
The trials event provides an excellent platform for New Zealand's up and coming athletes to boost their careers. Gaining a valuable slot in the main rounds of a Challenger Series event means a chance to secure bigger qualification points on the World Qualifying Series. The Challenger Series events cater to the top 112 male and top 60 female surfers in the world.
Surfing New Zealand President Chris Fougere says the trials provide aspiring young surfers a massive opportunity to join New Zealand's best in the main event.
"We ensured that the trials formula comprised a mix of our future stars, top New Zealand based talent and local surfers from the Auckland Region with multiple chances for surfers from around the country to qualify," he says.
The trials format will be four-person heats through to the final with first and second in the final securing the wildcards.
Trialists – Men:
Daniel Farr (Taranaki), Korbin Hutchings (Gold Coast), Taylor Hutchison (Raglan), Tane Bowden (Aus), Kaya Horne (Aus), Levi Stewart (Waihī Bch), Jack Lee (Ōhope), Callum Chuter (Mount), Finn Vette (Gisorne), Jarred Hancox (Taranaki), Caleb Cutmore (Raglan), Elliott Brown (Dunedin), Chris Malone (Raglan), Zen Wallis (Piha), Dune Kennings (Piha), Maz Quinn (Gisborne).
Trialists – Women:
Raiha Ensor (Mount), Tiana–Breeze de Mooij (Mount), Aimee Brown (Great Barrier), Saffi Vette (Gisborne), Ariana Shewry (Taranaki), Brie Bennett (Raglan), Natasha Gouldsbury (Taranaki), Grace Spiers (WGM), Ava Henderson (Christchurch), Hayley Pascoe (Dunedin), Georgia Wederell (Mount), Anna Hawes (Westport), Zhana Hutchison (Taranaki), Liv Haysom (Piha), Gabrielle Paul (Piha), Elin Tawharu (Mount).